Cover Story

Lynne Hornyak, PhD, would have become a financial adviser had she not chosen to become a psychologist first. But as it stands, she has combined her interest in finance with her training in psychology to carve out an unusual practice as a Washington, D.C.-based executive coach with a special focus on money issues.

Since graduating from the Catholic University of America with her doctorate in clinical psychology in 1983, Hornyak has helped people better understand their emotional relationship with money, first as a therapist and now as a coach.

"You don't need a DSM diagnosis to have a lousy relationship with money--by that I mean a fearful, insecure, avoidant or impulsive style of handling personal finances," she says. "People really need a lot of coaching on the different ways to think about money."

Money can be a way of showing love--it might mean security or even power to some people, she explains.

When working with clients, she helps raise their awareness of their own money beliefs and actions and then starts them on a path to living, spending and saving based on their life goals and values.

"For a variety of reasons, money is a difficult topic for many people," says Ron Levant, EdD, APA's president-elect. "As Bob Dylan once sang, 'Money doesn't talk, it swears.' There is clearly a need for the kind of focused financial coaching that Dr. Hornyak provides."

"My work improves people's financial 'EQ'--or emotional intelligence," says Hornyak.

Overcoming assumptions

It seems there's quite a market for financial EQ. Hornyak's clients--who range from entrepreneurs and executives to therapists to artists to stay-at-home moms--pay out-of-pocket for her coaching services. They come to her for help with money issues in their personal lives or their businesses. For the most part, one of two broad problems lead them to coaching: they either avoid dealing with money or they've been overspending. The larger issue for all of her clients, she says, is that their ideas about money have somehow been divorced from what they really value in life.

"A lot of people say they feel something is missing from their lives or they talk about money in a spiritual way," she says. "What they are really talking about is wanting to earn, save, invest and spend in line with their values."

She calls that--pairing money with values--"living purposefully." And her job as a coach is to help people do that.

"You have to understand the relationship you have to money and realize that it's often very automatic," Hornyak says. "But it can be more intentional."

When clients come in, she gets a sense of their budgeting, spending and earning habits. She also asks them to do a timeline of sorts to illustrate times they've made big money-related choices. This activity sheds light on her clients' money and decision-making patterns and beliefs, she says. She also determines what influential money messages people may have picked up.

"Oftentimes, folks have incorporated the fears their parents had about money into their own lives and have trouble making money-related decisions," she says. "Or they've gone the other way completely"--out-of-control spending. Hornyak helps her clients become aware of these influences by first delving into their family and money backgrounds. The second step is self-acceptance--getting her clients to look at where they are with money right now and do it without judgment.

She explains: "Sometimes all people need is awareness and objectivity, and they go on to find solutions for themselves. For other people, it's more complicated. And the kind of assignments I design with my coachee to do in between coaching sessions are as important as what happens in the coaching session."

For example, with an avoidant client, Hornyak might ask them to observe a money-related behavior over the course of the coming week--such as buying lunch or going out to dinner. She asks them to note whether they notice entree prices and how that affects their choices, and how the decision over who pays for the meal is decided. In the next session, Hornyak and the client explore how these activities can illustrate underlying beliefs and expectations about money.

Sometimes small actions work best. A case in point: One of Hornyak's clients had not looked at her checkbook or bank statements in more than three years because she was afraid she wasn't prepared for retirement. So Hornyak encouraged the woman to take a small step and see what was in her account. As it turns out, the woman had more money than she thought. Hornyak helped her develop a system to prevent future money panic. She helped her design a plan to regularly enter her expenses in a simple money software program and set up a file into which she'd immediately place her receipts. Tackling these small steps really increased the client's sense of security and empowerment, Hornyak says.

Not therapy or straight financial advice

Sometimes coaching sessions are an adjunct to counseling. Hornyak says she works with a number of clients who are also in regular therapy with psychologists. The therapist refers the client for money coaching, and then she and the therapist team up. On the flip side, she will refer clients for counseling if she thinks coaching isn't the proper approach or they aren't making any progress--some psychological issues, such as anxiety or depression, may require treatment before the client can achieve concrete results. She says she doesn't do therapy with clients because it's outside the parameters of a coaching relationship.

"In coaching, the relationship is much more like business partners: The client is a co-partner in designing the goals. Coaching is based on the assumption that the client has the capacity and resources to take action," she says. "But in therapy, even if you're more egalitarian, there's still a doctor-patient relationship based on a model of healing."

Likewise, she also refers clients to financial advisers if they need more financial advice, and she helps them develop questions to interview adviser candidates.

But she's careful, she says, to stay "on the mental side of money."

Further Reading

See www.lmhservices.com or www.wealthhealthy.com for more information on Hornyak's business.